Cartouche – Movies, Museum and Morse

cartouche is oval with, at one end, a horizontal line – an Egyptian inscription of royalty.  In the second episode of Endeavour’s fifth seasonDetective Sergeant Endeavour Morse deciphers Egyptian hieroglyphs and other clues.

Egyptian cartouche – CC BY-SA 2.5

Cartouche opens to a film show at The Roxy. After watching The Pharaoh’s Curse, retired policeman, Ronald Beavis, goes home and is found dead in his bed by his landlady. There is alcohol in his room and the autopsy shows that his heart and liver are damaged. Death by natural causes? 

But toxicology shows that strychnine, in orange squash, killed him. Endeavour finds a cinema ticket in the dead man’s possessions. Beavis had the squash at the Roxy. 

Endeavour heads for the movie hall and discovers that it is struggling to survive. Gangsters are threatening the movie hall’s café owner. And one of the gang is killed while leaving the café.

Investigations reveal that the deceased Beavis worked for an Egyptian archaeologist, Dr Shoukry, at the nearby Pitt Rivers Museum. Shoukry, passionate about preserving his ancient heritage, does not like the British.

To compound matters, there are arson attacks on Kenyan Asians – Indians. Detective Inspector Fred Thursday and Chief Superintendent Bright are tense about rising racial tensions. 

A brick is thrown at the glass window of a public advice centre, where Asians flock for help. DI Thursday’s daughter, Joan, works there. Endeavour has a crush on her but has never declared his love. She is fond of him. However, she will not give her heart to a policeman, seeing how life is with a Detective Inspector father. 

Previously, on the show, Joan left home, feeling responsible for endangering her father. When she was hostage at a bank robbery, Thursday almost shot the gangster involved. Fred Thursday gets violent when it is a question of Joan.

Father and daughter are never on good terms. But, when she left home, Thursday grew bitter and withdrawn and her mother broke down.

 Now she’s back. And Endeavour meets her when looking into the brick throwing incident at the advice centre. Will romance blossom? 

When the detectives reflect on Beavis, dead “with only a bottle for company“, Endeavour looks worried. Thursday, almost father figure to young Endeavour, is reassuring:

You’ll make better choices.

However, we know better!  Inspector Morse, Endeavour in the future, is a bachelor. Things can’t get too promising. As Dr. Shoukry puts it, perhaps that’s possible 

In the afterlife.

And, as Thursday retorts:

That’s beyond our jurisdiction.

But, let’s return to Endeavour’s love life. Early in Cartouche, he meets a pretty young girl.

And the next thing we know is that she’s leaving the flat he shares with Detective Sergeant Strange and newcomer Fancy. Well, we say to ourselves, the boy’s getting over his shyness with the ladies and turning into the ladies man that Detective Inspector Morse is. Only this is not just any lady! It’s Joan’s cousin. And Morse is asked to show her around town! 

Since the girl has no interest in the fine academic buildings of Oxford, Endeavour takes her to the Roxy. She’s thrilled as many film stars are there. Including the famous Emil Valdemar. 

It’s a grand event and The Roxy wants to gift Valdemar a watch as appreciation. However, the gift box has an Egyptian cartouche! And the old actor fears the curses associated with robbing pyramids.

All hell breaks loose as the Egyptian archaeologist, also present, protests – the cartouche was taken from his museum. And Endeavour spots a major gangster among the guests.  Now, there’s a third corpse as the movie hall organist drops dead after a drink. The mystery grows until it crescendos to a grand flaming finale – a tribute to the epic films of yore.

Shaun Evans, who plays Endeavour, also plays an actor in one of the films shown in the show. All the actors, regulars and new, do a splendid job of it.

Most Endeavour, Inspector Morse and Inspector Lewis episodes are written by Russell Lewis. It is he who brings in the many literary and other enriching references that make Endeavour so pleasurable. To know more, Meet Endeavour writer Russell Lewis: a real man of mystery.

The dialogues are rich and pithy. Making a parallel between anthropologists and detectives, Dr Shoukry says they are both

keepers of the dead.

Cartouche is directed by Andy Wilson who has a decent line of productions to his credit. Here’s a trailer for his  Ripper Street.

This blog has followed a British drama for some posts now. A police show. So, what’s new? Don’t we have many police serials in India?

Yes, we do. But most are badly made, full of stomach churning brutality by cops or villains. 

Endeavour is not just about crime and punishment. Episodes cover the routine circumstances of the police station and the historical forces acting on such units.

Endeavour is based on the main character in a series of novels written by Colin Dexter. The author was very much an academic. So it is natural that the setting is Oxford, a university town.

Colin Dexter loved crosswords as much as his detective does.

Dexter created Morse and, in time, Inspector Morse became a TV show.

Then followed a series called Inspector Lewis, based on Morse’s assistant. 

And, eventually, a prequel to Morse was born, the marvellous Endeavour!

Endeavour rests on a network of references. And one ends up watching Inspector Morse and Inspector Lewis as well. In the next post, we continue to journey through Endeavour episodes with The Passenger

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Raising Cain, not Lazarus – Endeavour’s Lazaretto 

Lazaretto opens into a hospital with a shot of what looks like an operating table in the limelight. Cut to earphones – a patient is listening to music. The scene shifts to show us an in-house radio station for the hospital, run by a bespectacled young man, a volunteer librarian at the hospital, we later learn. The opening sequence shifts to a nurse tying a tag on a patient’s toe – a sure sign he’s dead. And the corpse is wheeled to the mortuary in a set of shots that scream creepy.

A ‘lazaretto’ was where sailors were quarantined to control cholera or plague outbreaks on ships.  Infected as well as healthy but suspected cases were lodged together in cramped quarters. A death sentence from which there was no escape, sometimes.

This episode of the British crime series, Endeavour, is set in a hospital. Bed 10, at Cowley General Hospital, is a death sentence. On this bed, in Fosdick Ward, three patients have died in the past five weeks. Even the chief surgeon finds it fishy as most of those patients were recovering well.

As luck will have it, a certain Terence Bakewell is brought to the hospital. This man was part of a bank robber gang. He decided to turn informant against the gang and was safely in prison. However, in the hospital, the gang might find a way to kill him for his betrayal. Detective Inspector Thursday is anxious and Detective Constable Morse and other detectives play bodyguard.

Now, we know that Bed 10 is fatal to its occupants and we groan when Bakewell is put there. And in handcuffs …  As it happens, a gossipy patient, Mr. Talbot, has things to tell Morse about Bed 10.

The bank robbery in question was the shattering climax of Series Two. Joan, DI Thursday’s daughter, was in the bank when it happened and ran away from home, soon after, blaming herself for endangering her policeman father who had bravely but recklessly confronted the gangsters.

So, Thursday is quite justifiably tense about the prisoner in the hospital. To make things merrier, Chief Superintendent Bright is also hospitalised for an ulcer. Thursday, with enough on his plate, now has to play boss, a role he’s not happy with as it prevents him from focusing on protecting the informant.

Meanwhile, Morse is called to look into what seems like an accidental death. An old lady, a Mrs Zacharides, is found lying dead in her house, surrounded by strewn papers and belongings. A seizure or foul play?

Nothing links her to the hospital until her daughter mentions that her husband died in Bed 10, months back. Mrs Zacharides suspected hospital staff of stealing his things. And she made such a fuss that she was not allowed into the hospital. The daughter mentions that her mother had got a letter from someone at the hospital and was expecting that person on the day she died but there is no sign of the letter.

At the hospital, the list of suspects mounts as does the body count. Sister Clodagh McMahon exchanges conspiratorial glances with Dean Powell, the surgeon who is locking horns with the chief surgeon, Sir Merlyn Chubb. Powell and staff feel that Chubb is messing up as his hands shake a lot – a bad thing in a surgeon. Morse decides to investigate. Nestling, in the bouquet of clues, are the white sweet pea flowers placed on Bed 10 after each death.

Typically, in an Endeavour episode, the closing credits carry a hidden message – in this case, the name of Henry Eckford, the Scottish horticulturalist who bred the flower.

Aftabbanoori, CC BY-SA 3.0

Endeavour is based on another British crime show, Morse.

Who is Morse? He’s Endeavour in the later years. After the success of the series and of an offshoot, Lewis, Endeavour was made to delight us with the adventures of a younger Morse. We can see most of the signs characteristic of the older man in Endeavour: a fondness for drink and Wagner’s music.

Morse and offshoots are created from the novels of Colin Dexter.

Colin_Dexter (1)
By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use

Until recently, Colin would put in an appearance in all the shows. In this episode he’s there as a caricature, in a picture on the hospital wall. The delight of fans is to spot him in the shows.

Endeavour Morse shares some of the author’s tastes. Besides Wagner’s music, he is fond of crosswords. Indeed, solving a murder mystery involves chasing clues. And Morse minds all kinds of disparate clues to tackle the complexity of crime. The show itself regularly sports a clue in the credits. Here, it was the name of the famous flower breeder.

However, life is not a bed of roses for Morse. Unlike the author, who seems to have had a happy married life, Endeavour has a weakness where it comes to women, and a part of the enjoyment of the show is his love life. Lazaretto is studded with Morse’s women. The one he once loved and lost. His nurse neighbour with whom he’s had a fling. And Joan with whom he’s secretly smitten, and who appears merely fond of him. It’s been weeks since she left home.

In this episode, Morse tracks her down but cannot persuade her to return. She, on the other hand, extracts a promise from him not to tell her parents anything. What is worse is that, as he leaves, he sees a man about to visit her. A man who’s taking off his wedding ring … The sequence has a memorable moment where Morse and Joan’s passion for each other simmers big time.

Joan has come between DI Thursday and DC Morse. Thursday is like a father figure for the reclusive Morse but, of late, sparks are flying between them. Morse can’t stomach Thursday’s penchant for violence.

Thursday’s plate is full with playing boss till Bright is better, trying to protect the informant, agonising over his daughter’s disappearance. He is also distraught about Win, his wife – she’s sinking into a depression. She hasn’t even made him his lunch sandwiches which marked the days of the week in earlier episodes. Fred Thursday appears no longer capable of living up to her words in Coda:

Fred will sort it. He always does.

Both Thursday and Endeavour are learning to get along without love.

One of the many charms of Endeavour, Morse and Lewis is that they are all interrelated. In Lazaretto, the mother of Susan, whom Morse once loved, bumps into him at the hospital. The mother’s character – played by another actress – also appears in an episode of Morse. It is these little things which create fertile feeding grounds for fans.

Another such interpolation is a thriller in the hospital library, authored by Kent Finn. The fictional novelist had appeared in an earlier episode, Game.

Endeavour, like actor Shaun Evans, who plays him, is from a humble background – a fact of significance in the Britain of those days where aristocrats still commanded some respect. To add fuel to that fire, he is agnostic with a sharp brain, rich with classical education. And yet it’s a struggle for him in the career. He has stood up to authority and pays the price. Though he’s bitter, his stance and brilliance are beginning to win him the respect of colleagues and even that of the bigot, Police Chief Superintendent Bright.

Director Börkur Sigþórsson of Trapped brings legendary Icelandic skills to the task, lending stylish doom and gloom to this British drama.

Russel Lewis writes almost all the Morse and Morse offshoots and tends to enjoy referencing, especially from the world of cinema. Lazaretto’s lugubriousness is nicely balanced by with a gentle throwback to the hilarious Carry On‘s Doctor series which are ripe with nurse-doctor romances.

The episode wraps up with a shot with which we have become familiar: a pair of gnarled old hands dealing out tarot cards. A clue to the episode that follows?

Or just one of the many red herrings that garnish the show, like the talking parrot who can only squawk

Evil Old Cow

With each episode, and even on a second watching, my respect for everyone involved in the making of Endeavour grows. Nasir Hamid has a fine photo piece on the shooting of the episode.

My endeavour is to get the show aired in India for it will surely be better inspiration than the stuff we routinely get from the US.

Endeavour’s Opening Gambit for Season Four – Game

Chess, a nerdy game, is much less in the news now than it was at the height of the Cold War between the erstwhile Soviet Union and the US. The first episode of Endeavour, a cerebral crime drama from the UK, involves chess. And computers.

Things get high tech as Endeavour returns for a fourth season. With gigantic computers of yore, chess and a psychopath, we’re soon fed into the Morse system.

Morse is a character from a detective novel series by Colin Dexter. And Endeavour is the younger Morse, before he became Inspector. Morse and Endeavour and another show, Lewis, are interrelated. And it’s a miracle how they’ve kept it all together, making each individual drama complete in itself and yet connected to many other things.

The episode begins with a delightful piece by Erik Satie, played on a fascinating instrument, the Cristal Baschet. Good classical music, as well as signature tunes from the Sixties lend majesty and add to the pleasure of this aesthetically pleasing show.

Swimming pool scenes float in to the music. And the drama officially begins as a corpse is discovered. This one is fished out of a river with a pocketful of stones. A suicide, we presume. The deceased was a scientist. Part of a team of super nerds headed by a man in a wheelchair, Professor Amory. The professor’s beautiful daughter is around too. Did love for her drive Dr Nielsen to kill himself?

The team is working on a computer. For us, the sight of the Joint Computing  Nexus brings a smile. However, Jason, the gigantic computer in the episode, is an awesome beast and we learn that Jason will be playing chess against a Soviet champ.

However, soon, there is another death by drowning. At the local swimming pool/public baths this time. What’s more odd, the lady had a bath at home and, so, why would she have used the public one?

Built in 1842, this was the first public wash house in Britain. Public Domain

What is even more puzzling is that there’s something in her nose and ears. And then there’s another death at the baths. Morse suspects foul play. He finds that all three victims played chess and he turns his gaze onto the scientists. However, Detective Inspector Thursday and others think he’s making something out of nothing.

Clues begin to surface and it’s pretty Trewlove who discovers that the mysterious combinations of letters and numbers, on the bath closets, are, in fact, chess moves.

Dakota Blue Richards by Jack Alexander, CC BY-SA 3.0

Meanwhile, tension is brewing between DC Morse and DI Thursday, especially after Joan, Thursday’s daughter, left home. Morse has more to be morose about than the loss of the woman for whom he secretly hankers. He has failed to pass the Sergeant’s exam, only because his paper got lost.

Morse has ruffled important feathers and that’s possibly why his paper flew away.

More aggravating is a pretty and driven young journalist who keeps popping up. She gets Morse to exchange information with her and, though he’s cautious and aware that he should not give away too much, the lady light fingers a vital notebook out of his pocket. And there’s hell to pay, naturally.

Talking of journalists, the daughter of the actor who plays the older Morse in the series by that name, stars as one in Endeavour. She has a soft spot for the Detective Constable and it is on the wall of her office that we see a picture of author Colin.

His appearance was a must in all the shows and, as age made personal presence hard, we now find him hanging on walls, in a frame. Once upon a time, it was the mighty Hitchcock who would thus insert himself into his films.

Jason, the gigantic computer, joins the fray to generate a list of possible suspects. And, turn by turn, these emerge out of the woodwork, including a crime fiction writer, Kent Finn, whose latest novel seems to mirror the murders. And whose walls are adorned by death masks.

L’Inconnue de la Seine, Public Domain

One mask, recorded the face of an unidentified young woman who, around the age of sixteen, … had been found drowned in the Seine River …, France around the late 1880s. A morgue worker made a cast of her face, saying “Her beauty was breathtaking, and showed few signs of distress at the time of passing. So bewitching that I knew beauty as such must be preserved.” … In the following years, copies of the mask became a fashionable fixture in Parisian Bohemian society.


Written, as usual, by the fabulous Russel Lewis, this episode, like the others, strews the drama with references. Most of them go over the head for those who are not of the UK. But it would be interesting to see how one could do such a thing in an Indian TV drama, making references to film classics. It would be engaging as the audience eagerly looks for and unravels these delightful little nothings.

Game is directed by Ashley Pearce who has quite a few other series to his credit, including some of Agatha Christie’s Poirot mysteries.

The Series boasts high fandom and has a very thorough piece on Game.

Endeavour is a major delight for fans of the Sixties and the costumes and settings bring the decade delightfully to life. While many today may not have heard of Woodstock, the name will ring nostalgic bells for many around the world. The song, below, is played in a scene with Jason and his caretakers.